Winston Churchill famously described Russia as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” The same might be said — and the Russia reference is no coincidence — of Paul Manafort and the trial now underway of President Trump’s former campaign chairman.
The riddle, of course, is why there is a trial at all. Given the strength of the documentary evidence against Manafort — millions of dollars in income stashed in overseas accounts and not reported to the Internal Revenue Service; doctored financial statements designed to obtain otherwise unavailable mortgages — why did he not cut a deal with prosecutors?
Manafort is doing the legal equivalent of trying to shoot the moon — twice. Even if he is acquitted in this case, another trial looms next month on separate charges of money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent. Perhaps Manafort is angling for a presidential pardon. But even assuming Trump is willing to commit an act so blatantly self-interested, if not outright corrupt, a pardoned Manafort could still be compelled to testify, and prosecuted for any ensuing perjury unless Trump is so brazen as to prospectively pardon that conduct as well.